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    Taco Bell’s Drive-Thru Diet

    8222_M_W_300Taco Bell’s latest advertising project? Their Drive-Thru Diet®.

    Their spokesperson, a real-life dieter identified as Christine, claims to have lost 54 pounds over the course of two years “by choosing Fresco items from the Drive-Thru Diet® menu and making other sensible choices.”

    As if the “other sensible choices” part wasn’t enough of a hint that there’s more to this than meets the eye, we then learn that Christine simply reduced her total caloric intake by 500 calories for a total of 1,250 calories a day.

    It seems that even the folks at Taco Bell are aware this campaign is a bit of a stretch.

    Not only does Christine herself share that “these results aren’t typical” and that “as you know,” (?) “the Drive-Thru Diet® menu is not a weight-loss program” — the Taco Bell website makes this statement:

    “For a healthier lifestyle, pay attention to total calorie and fat intake and regular exercise. Fresco can help with calorie reductions of 20 to 100 per item compared to corresponding products on our regular menu. Not a low calorie food.”

    This comes back to a point I often make on this blog — actual weight-loss can be done with almost any food.

    In fact, this campaign reminds me of a similar one by Special K cereal a few years ago.  The gist was that Special K helped you lose weight, provided — of course — that you had a bowl of it as your lunch.

    Christine could have consumed 1,250 calories worth of ice cream, french fries, and pizza and still have lost the weight.

    The added challenge comes from achieving weight loss while meeting nutrient needs and providing the body with sufficient energy and care.

    A 1,250-calorie diet of junk food will result in weight loss, but also in completely inadequate nutrient intakes.

    It’s also worth pointing out that one can consume 320 calories in a half cup of premium ice cream or six cups of strawberries.

    The strawberries, of course, provide phytonutrients, antioxidants, vitamins, minerals, and fiber lacking in that half cup of ice cream.  In fact, a mere half cup of strawberries (roughly 50 calories) provides significantly more nutrition than that half cup of ice cream.  In that sense, all calories are most certainly NOT created equal!

    Furthermore, while I understand what Taco Bell is trying to do here (reminding customers that their menu offers lower-calorie items), two things bother me:

    1. This campaign is completely carried by a woman, once again reiterating the stereotype that only women care about managing their weight and seeking healthier options
    2. All this talk of healthier options is a little silly when you consider that some Fresco items contain half a day’s worth of sodium

    Rather than create this eye-rolling gimmick, why didn’t Taco Bell simply advertise their lower-calorie items with a “At Taco Bell, low calories are no problem”-ish campaign?  It would at least be — gasp! — more honest.



    1. Fernando said on December 27th, 2009

      In reference to your “1”, I think you give Taco Bell more credit than they’re due in tryin to sell a “healthy” menu that’s unfortunately tainted by gender stereotypes.

      I’m inclined to think that this campaign is really just targeting women than targeting “the health-conscious” or dieter crowds. Look to the current crop of Taco Bell commercials and advertising and see how the focus continues to be their core consumer: the young male (if any females are present, they’re ornamental; kind of a background cue that you’re still hip and attractive despite those four bean burritos you just rammed down your gullet — the “Fourthmeal” spots, for one). Kind of like beer and Mountain Dew and Axe commercials, just not so flagrant.

      The investment in building a new menu and advertising to a new demographic is significant; for Taco Bell I doubt it’s worth the money to target the “health conscious” as much as it is the women-who-believe-they’re-health-conscious. That sounds bad I know; but it’s not to say that I believe female consumers are that gullible, just that Taco Bell’s ad agency seems to think so.

      If anything, I’m sure that Taco Bell knows that in many markets they’ve lost the “health conscious” or calorie-conscious fake-Mex fans to the misleadingly-“healthy” alternatives of Baja Fresh, Chipotle, Qdoba, or Rubios.

    2. Jason said on December 27th, 2009

      Well, it’s no different than Jared and the Subway diet. He WALKED to the Subway each day and reduced his calorie intake. Any food would have worked but he (wisely, financially-speaking) chose Subway.

    3. Andy Bellatti said on December 27th, 2009

      Great comments, Fernando. I’m glad you shared this, as it hits so many points on the head!

      I completely agree with you; the young, health-conscious demographic IS often perceived as gullible by androcentric marketing firms.

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